Anders Breivik, You and Me: What We Have in Common

When an anti-Islamic loner explodes a bomb outside a government building, killing eight people, then travels to a nearby island where he guns down 69 more, we naturally view that man as a dangerous lunatic. His paranoid tirades against multi-culturalism and “Eurabia”, along with his grandiose view of himself as crusading member of the fictional Knights Templar, make him seem delusional and psychotic — someone entirely “other” and so unlike ourselves that he might as well belong to a different species. We would never do anything so cruel and violent, of course, and we find it virtually impossible to identify or empathize with this man in any way.

And yet, Anders Breivik is a member of the human race, just as we are. His emotional states and thought processes in fact differ only in degree and intensity from some of our own. I invite you to join me in an exploration of this troubled man’s psychology — not in order to create sympathy for him, not to blame society or violent online gaming platforms for his actions, not to argue on behalf of clemency from the court, but rather to learn something about ourselves and to make “insanity” seem a little less strange and “other”. For what it’s worth, my personal view is that Anders Breivik is so psychically damaged, so emotionally troubled that he will remain a danger to society while alive and should be permanently isolated to eliminate the possibility of his doing more violence.

Has anyone ever hurt your feelings badly or deeply wounded your self-esteem? Perhaps a lover you cared for broke off your relationship and “dumped” you. Or a friend decided he or she no longer wanted to know you and stopped returning your calls. Maybe you were summarily fired from your job. Did you then indulge in occasional fantasies of revenge? I don’t mean violent revenge, but rather of triumphing over the people who hurt you and “proving them wrong.” You and your ex happen to show up at the same party; you’re on the arm of someone even better-looking or more successful, and you relish the look of regret and longing in the eyes of your former lover. You’re at the center of a glamorous group of new people who all look down upon and exclude your former friend. Established at a new, better-paying job, you run into former co-workers at a bar and they feel envious of your unexpected success. They were obviously wrong about you.

These fairly typical responses to shame and humiliation involve the denial of shame; they embody a psychological defense against an experience felt to be almost unbearably painful. Because rejection often makes us feel like a “loser” and the one who spurned us a “winner”, we long to reverse those roles. We hurt and would like to make the other person hurt instead; on occasion, we might even fantasize about inflicting physical pain. Because we’re able to think, with our “reality-testing” intact, we usually don’t act on those fantasies. We normally don’t respond to unbearable hurt with physical violence.

Anders Breivik struggles with shame. I don’t mean the kind of shame that comes from rejection, or from parental and societal messages that instill a sense of inferiority. I mean the deep-rooted shame that embodies the felt knowledge that you are damaged, different from other people, broken and (you fear) beyond repair. His shame arises not from rejection but from early and pervasive emotional damage. I don’t propose to “psychoanalyze” him, but the little information I have is telling: his parents divorced when he was only a year old, he had a troubled relationship with his father that left him feeling “feminized”. A social services report written when he was four expressed concerns for his mental health, suggesting that he be removed from parental care. Early damage, lots of it, instilling (as it always does) a sense of basic and profound shame.

In order to escape that excruciating shame, Anders Breivik takes flight into grandiose fantasy. He’s not a “loser” but a member of a secret and powerful organization whose aim is nothing less than the salvation of Western culture. He’s not weak and ineffective but powerfully destructive — so powerful he metes out death like some kind of avenging angel. These fantasies differ in degree from our own more pedestrian fantasies of revenge but they’re related in nature. Beyond the extreme violence, what distinguishes Breivik from the rest of us is his weak connection to reality. His defenses are so powerful, his projections and distortions so pervasive, that he can’t distinguish between the real and the imaginary.

He also wants badly to be admired. Regardless of whether you agree with the findings of his second psychiatric evaluation, that he suffers from narcissistic personality disorder, you can readily see his desire for attention, his wish to be admired, his longing to impress people with his power and devotion to the cause. It’s a difference of degree, not of kind, from our own wish to be admired or envied by others following an experience of humiliation.

We might also find traits in common with Anders Breivik in the area of black-and-white thinking. Take a polarizing issue that inspires vehement emotion, where you feel passionately identified with one side. Some possibilities: the right-to-choose vs. the right-to-life; laissez-faire economics vs. government as enforcer of social justice; gay marriage. It might even be the threat posed by “Islamo-fascisim” which so troubled Breivik. When we feel passionately committed to one side in a debate, we tend to demonize those on the other. They become caricatures: Hateful religious fanatics who want to impose their faith upon us. Baby-killers. Ruthless corporations. Empty-headed tree-huggers. When emotion runs high, especially in complex areas that pose great social challenges, we often resort to black-and-white thinking in order to “simplify” the issues. We are good, the other side is bad. Most of us have an issue that quickly eliminates all nuance from our thinking.

Anders Breivik has a very polarized view of his world: us (the Christian right) vs. them (the multi-culturalists, the Islamo-fascists). He sees himself as an agent of good; his devotion to the cause of saving Western culture justifies violence of all kinds, including murder. In both the emotional and intellectual sense, he has a mind completely without nuance. His world view consists of two-dimensional good guys battling cartoon villains, which of course sounds insane; on the other hand, it has elements in common with the kind of black-and-white thinking you see everywhere, every day. He lacks good “reality-testing”, as we say; his defenses are more powerful, more psychotic in nature, but his emotional struggles have roots in common with our own.

Joe is the author and the owner of AfterPsychotherapy.com, one of the leading online mental health resources on the internet. Be sure to connect with him on Google+ and Linkedin.

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51 comments

    What an insightful and easy-t0-understand analysis this was. I hope many people read this and get some benefit from an awful situation.

    Thanks for this analysis. I’m european with NPD-diagnosis, so I follow the trial with big personal interest. At first, I strongly disagreed with the 1st psychiatrical expertise: paranoid schizophrenia. It seemed to be an easy way declaring him as a moron. At the same time I was convinced that Breivik suffred from NPD. (The word “suffred” is even hard to write in this context…).

    But the trial showed evidence of serious delusions/psychosis. I’d like to ask you as an expert: would it be possible that a pathological (possibly malignant) narcissist, driven by a major narcissistic injury, could develop such a complex but delusive concept explaining and simplifying how the world functions and – as a result – slidder slowly but suddently into paranoid schizophrenia? I see strong similarities with people as Adolf Hitler, whose delusive internal world became (first for him, then for others) reality at a certain time.

    I’d appreciate a short comment about this, thx in advance. And, even if I am a nasty evil narcissist (borderline-niveau): sorry for my bad english.

    As always, I think along a spectrum. Breivik undoubtedly has major features of NPD, but that type of grandiosity also features in many forms of psychosis. For me, NPD is too “benign” a diagnosis. He’s definitely in the psychotic realm, with clear delusions of a paranoid nature. The paranoid psychotic or schizophrenic often has very highly organized and pseudo-rational belief systems. And yes, I do believe that early and pervasive psychological trauma can result in this type of dysfunction.

    I live in Denmark and the medias treatment and many peoples sentiments regarding Breivik and his actions have been unnuanced – psychiatrists biggering over diagnosis, and right-wingers distancing themselves very rapidly from left-wingers more or less rigid critique. Psychologists, theologians, philosophers, writers (that includes me) and so forth have been very quiet since the tragedy (I suspect we are still recovering – after all Scandinavia is rather peaceful and quiet). Breivik – as horrible as his actions were – still made me painfully aware that we have serious social and political issues in my neck of the woods. A deeply rooted xenophobic mindset luring in many subconscious Scandinavian minds (how else can I explain the virtually unopposed upcoming of severel VERY right wing parties spewing hatred towards muslims of any kind). Jung named it “The blonde Beast” – reffering to the upcoming of Nazism.

    I clearly remember when it happened – the media and many of from my extended family immeadiately assumed that is was the work of radical islamists. And I distinctly recall that I thought “no this is something else” – I shared my thoughts and I was laughed at and I felt shamed – and I also recall my gloating when the facts came to light completely disregarding the tragedy at hand……

    Well the prime minister of Norway Stoltenberg his crisis management and following instistence of tolerance commands respect – his wish that we forget Breivik because he does not deserve out attention – does not. Wasn´t it a lack of attention that basically got us here in the first place?

    I did a short paper on Timothy McVeigh many years back – and the similarities are plenty, esp. intelligence and narcissism stand out. It scared me that I could relate to this man – maybe that is what´s keeping me from looking closer at Breivik?

    My comment have no closure and no deeper points – I just wish to thank you for writing this. Thank You.

    Love
    Frans

    My heart goes out to you and your country. It’s such an awful trauma, but I think that demonizing Breivik and making him so completely “other” and then forgetting about him doesn’t make the grief any easier to bear, not really. I hope that understanding what drives a person like him, finding ways into his psyche, will help a very little. Thanks for writing.

    i could greatly relate to some of the things that have been talked about in the media about breivik, the facts that he hadnt been successful and that this may have been a way of him getthing his “success” “attention” after deep shame,

    i really feel deep shame and have feeling of such hate to others, but im working on it through psychotherpay and just lately more deep dialogues involving getting in touch with that hurt child, and wow its scary for me to get in touch cos the child is just soooooo rageful and has nooo empathy for others, but i keep bringing up the courage to go there and dialogue and i just hope i can heal things within me,

    i feel grateful i have not been wounded so much as too have crossed the line as i call it, into being cut off from others feelings so much that i do physical damage, but i do feel i have peered across that line, but been lucky enough to not go delusionly over the line,

    there for the grace of god. just wish this lesson about deep shame could be learnt by society as a whole cos that would be such a powerful healer of society in the future and alot of its troubles, but im not sure people in general even want to know?

    its refreshing – your daring to bring up these topics in this way, to bring it back to me (im good at that!) it helps me not hate myself for those feelings in me, cos youve helped bring them out in the open

    cheers x

    I think we can all benefit from understanding people like Breivik rather than viewing him as entirely “other”.

    I like your comments esp. the part…it helps me not to hate myself for those feelings in me,cos you’ve helped bring them out in the open…

    Thanks, John. I’m especially interested to hear how Europeans react, since you’re much closer to the whole experience than we are over here in the States. (And I hope you don’t mind my including you with the “Europeans”!)

    A very timely post for me to read. I have recently–and partially through your always excellent blog posts–come to realize that a relative probably suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder. But let’s say toward the lower end of the scale. Most people think she is a lovely person. Others that she formed an attachment to easily have them been abruptly discarded. If her life proves stable enough, perhaps her relationships will not become any more problematic. I hope. While she could certainly benefit from therapy, she falls into that broad category of those who make-others-around-them-miserable-but-but-not-in-pain-enough-themselves-to-seek-help. You know, like most of us before we reach a crisis.

    I have been pondering how many of the symptoms and behaviors associated with mental illness I can find in myself. I, too, have an Inner Borderline! So I appreciate this very insightful post.

    Empathy and Self-Empathy have been on my mind as I recently attended a workshop on Non-Violent Communication. Are you familiar with their work? It has already proven beneficial in helping me to simply identify WHAT I feel and which of my needs are not being met. Hopefully, with practice, empathy with others will become easier, and my own sometimes black-and-white thinking will become more nuanced.

    I have never commented before, although I have read your blog with interest and appreciation for a long time. Thanks for the edifying and always compassionate posts.

    P.S. And thanks for the book recommendation….I read Angela Davis-Gardner’s book “Butterfly’s Child” this weekend–couldn’t put it down! She’s a very talented writer.

    I will tell Angela — she’ll be so delighted!

    I only recently heard the term ‘self-empathy’ for the first time; I reacted to it in much the same way as I did to the term “self-love” … huh? But now I see what you mean — it’s about being able to identify what one is actually feeling. I still don’t much like either term because empathy and love, by definition, seem to be about other people. But it’s a minor quibble — the idea is very important.

    I haven’t heard of the Non-Violent Communication workshop but it sounds like a good program. You should comment more often!

    I agree with your view, Burgo. Wholeheartedly.
    As a norwegian I am ringside, so to say, and it is a rather mixed situation. Reporters from the largest, and most serious dailies have consistently written in a ridiculing fashion, almost competing in their eagerness to create further disgust and hate for Anders Breivik. He is obviously an intelligent person, but unfortunately, so far off the common ground, to his own and so many others misfortune.

    As to muslims and Eurabia, quite a few share his view, but hardly anyone approve of what he did. There are quite a few frightening videos on Youtube, where muslims state their goal of winning Europe. Some claim they are fake productions. I have no way of knowing .

    Yesterday Finn Skårderud , a norwegian psyhciatrist, had an article published in the daily Aftenposten, where who wrote about narcissism and of Anders Breivik , stating(hopefully I`ll get the translation right): “Narcissism is a pathology of lack. And what is lacking is contact with one self.”

    And people hate Breivik for what he never was given.

    Thanks so much. Breivik is out of contact with himself because he is so heavily defended against his own shame and the sense of being damaged. But because his defense is so offensive (undestandably) to other people — the arrogant superiority, the murderous violence, the brutality — it’s easy to hate him.

    That is an extraordinary article, Joseph, getting right to the heart of the matter and written in crystal clear terms.

    At the heart of the matter is this:
    “Early damage, lots of it, instilling (as it always does) a sense of basic and profound shame.”
    The cause of his (I believe correctly diagnosed) narcissistic personality disorder.
    Would Breivik have been different if he had been brought up differently, by different parents? I expect so.

    You say, and I agree:

    “For what it’s worth, my personal view is that Anders Breivik is so psychically damaged, so emotionally troubled that he will remain a danger to society while alive and should be permanently isolated to eliminate the possibility of his doing more violence.”

    Certainly as a European I am shocked by the enormity of Breivik’s crime. Norway is only about an hour and a half away, and is seen as a peaceful and rather beautiful country. It seems unreal that such carnage and mayhem should occur in such surroundings as that island.

    Perhaps the seeds of violence live buried in all of us, except that most of us do not act violently. Being in touch with reality and having a sense of empathy means we do not go on a rampage to get revenge for perceived slights.

    Then again, I often ponder on the fact that it is not that long ago since we were swinging through the trees, and our evolution has a way to go yet. The black and white thinking of the jungle.

    Hermes

    I read that Breivik was also bullied at school as a child. No surprise there. I’ve heard that children who are targets of bullies are often bullied at home by a parent first. If there’s any truth to that, then it certainly makes sense that his problems began at home at a very young age.

    I dont think he was bullied, but struggled to be accepted by the “right crowd”. I find it interesting that you look at the shame and how much this can destroy a person. If we are to understand and learn from this, it is important to bear to see him as a person and not with psychiatric diagnoses. Maybe we are too close in time as a nation to take this debate? How it is possible that a normal boy on the westside in Oslo who were most keen to succeed in business, became the biggest terrorist in European history. What he has done is horrible and it is difficult to understand why this has happened in Norway. Although Norway is a rich country there has never been so many Norwegian youth who have dropped out of school and work because of mental illness. It’s easy to feel shame not to succeed, especially in a country where “everybody” is successful. Especially for men, this can lead to shame and aggression. What can we as a society do to to prevent this from happening again? Prosecutors have now asked for mental incapacity on the basis of report 1 He is then treated in mental health care, not in prison. What`s your opinion on report 1 that diagnosed him as paranoid schizophrenia?

    I’m not a big fan of diagnosis; he doesn’t strike me as schizophrenic per se but he certainly has some psychotic features. As I’ve said before, I think he’s too damaged to be helped by any kind of psychotherapeutic treatment, whatever the diagnosis. Does it matter what label we put on him? He’s obviously seriously disturbed and a threat to society.

    Great article. I tend to think that shame is the emotion that society needs to address above all else – there’s so much talk of anger management, grief therapy etc etc but I think it’s shame that is the one we need to focus on. Personally, I am the daughter of someone along the lines of Breivik – a psychopath who has been involved in the torture and murder of children (by the way, he’s very much respected in society and has never been questioned by the police to my knowledge). Also like Breivik, I think he links in what he has done to a belief system (those Knights Templars keeping popping up, by the way, I’m not sure how delusional it is that Breivik says he belonged to their modern-day incarnation). Some therapists have advised me ‘never’ to try to get inside my father’s head and ‘never’ to try to understand him, but I don’t go along with that line of thought. Like you, re Breivik, I think my father would be better locked up than left loose but I still try to understand where this came from in him, if only to know that I myself will make a totally different path in life. I am sure the roots of it were shame as he had a deeply shaming father (a man who yelled at me and punished my mother when I left a spot of menstrual blood on the rim of their toilet during one of my first menstruations). Over the course of my life, I have had to work on a lot – a lot – of shame and have often been drawn to people who are ‘working through’ shame e.g. just ‘coming out’ etc, I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

    I agree about the need to address shame. Unfortunately, I find that the way shame does get addressed isn’t particularly helpful. The over-emphasis on shaming messages from parents and society makes people think that they then have no reason to feel ashamed, that’s it’s only because of those hateful messages they received as children and they must reject them. The kind of shame I talk about simply is: the felt knowledge that one has been badly damaged by one’s upbringing. It’s not a question of whether you should or should not feel ashamed; you simply do.

    I have studied narcissism for personal reasons from my past but now its a nerdy interest. I now see it every where and every day. What can we do?..I don’t know. We can only control so much in society so now I only focus on close friends and family. I feel teenagers are so deaden to their feelings of shame and become addicted to feeling better through band aids like facebook and tweeting that having a conversation with most is sad. Most teenagers I think are narcissistic driven but the intelligence is not keen for black and white reacting.

    What a horrible crime this man committed. He must be punished severely, and the social issues raised by his crime should be discussed thoroughly. We all should learn from it.

    That said, I wonder if it’s a mistake to draw psychological conjectures about people whom we’ve never met therapeutically, sat with over many hours, nor similarly evaluated. I fear the effort to draw such conclusions about those we’ve never met simply results in projection and transference of the highest order.

    Not that I ever want to come face to face with this guy. I’d have a lot to say, and much of it would be profane.

    I don’t know what severe punishment would accomplish, other than to satisfy society’s longing for revenge. It won’t change him, nor will any kind of therapy or treatment. He’s just too damaged. He needs to be put in a secure place where he can never again hurt anyone.

    As for drawing conclusions about people I’ve never met, I have no problem doing that when something jumps out at me. After so many years, a lot of things are very clear. I can read about him, watch him on video, listen to his voice and it’s obvious. Humans beings are human beings, and while we may seem very different on the surface, we’re driven by pretty much the same things. I realize my attitude isn’t terribly correct; it might sound arrogant but it’s the way I feel.

    Hi Dr. Burgo,

    in your comment above you wrote that no kind of therapy would change Breivik, that he was just too damaged. When do you think was his point of no return? And have you ever come to the same conclusion regarding anybody else, one of your clients? Is it sometimes hard to treat a client when you think about how much pain the person sitting in front of you has been inflicting on others?

    In Germany where I live, the serious newspapers mainly focus on the question whether Breivik is certifiably sane or not, whether he has diminished criminal responsibility or not. You probably know about the 2 psychiatric examinations that had contradicting results? Breivik himself strongly rejected the first one that said he was not sane and should be placed in preventive custody immediately. In the media, his reaction was interpreted as wanting acknowledgement for his political mission. But I guess that was of only secondary importance, and that he mainly rejected the first examination`s result because being declared insane would for him just have been one more unbearable humiliation.

    Being seen as strong seems to be of extreme importance to him. I have often wondered how people can derive satisfaction from the fact that others think they are strong/happy/powerful or whatever when they know in their heart that they are not. What has to happen that what others think is true about us begins to carry more weight than what we KNOW to be the truth?

    Hard to say when he reached the point of no return. It sounds as if, during high school, he still had some hope and was attempting to hang onto goodness; maybe if someone had reached out to him or good help had been available then, he might not have taken the road he took. As long as someone is in my office, or working with me on Skype — that is, as long as they’re committed to the struggle — I know that if the work is successful, he or she will change and eventually hurt people less. I have no control over anything else.

    I find the whole debate over his sanity somewhat astonishing. Under what circumstances can gunning down helpless teenagers be seen as a “sane” response, even if we overlook the lunacy of his political views and deem them credible. I guess sane is a purely legal term — that is, was he rational and able to know what he was doing, making him responsible for his choices. Since he wasn’t overtly psychotic and delusional, I suppose an argument could be made that he was not legally insane.

    About your last point — he doesn’t truly know the truth about himself. He’s too heavily defended. When we’re in total flight from our damage, we’re capable of powerful self-deception.

    There has been considerable debate about this in Norway. One of the psychiatrist behind the report 1 criticized sharply his colleagues from the courtroom who had spoken out without examining him. There has been an absurd situajon. Two new psychiatrists were appointed, and found no evidence of psychosis. Anders Breivik was hospitalized for several weeks in a psychiatric hospital under observation with no evidence of psychosis. Neither the doctors who observed him in prison found psychosis. Altogether, 17 health personnel examined him without finding any signs of psychosis. The question is whether judges can consider him sane, because of the doubts from the first report. 24th of august we know the answers.

    When I’ve suffered emotional damage it is the pain that is healthy. The revenge or triumphing over the ‘enemy’ fantasies might help me get to sleep, but I always wake up to the painful reality of the event which caused the damage and the knowledge that the pain has to be lived through. A healthy psyche gains knowledge from pain and the healing process. A psyche such as Breivik’s buries or diverts the pain into a soothing and incredibly destructive fantasy. I think it’s true that a psychopath is unable to feel at any level beginning with his or her own pain.

    Thanks, James — I completely agree. It is their total inability to bear their own feelings (primarily shame) that makes them unable to empathize with others. This became clearer to me recently: empathy is the experience you have when somebody else’s feelings stir up something similar in you, so that you understand what the other is going through. But if you can’t bear your own feelings, you won’t be able to tolerate what other people stir up in you as a result — hence, no empathy.

    Great article. I don’t know what to say about Breivik. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be on the receiving end of the violations he committed. Although I have felt it to a degree. (violated) Isn’t punishment really just a form of revenge? I understand the strong desire for vengeance as being for the benefit of the violated more than anyone. And I find it unrealistic to assume that “punishment” is really about “teaching” anyone anything, or even protecting the innocent. It’s like passing the shame forward. And someone as damaged as Breivik isn’t going to care about punishment. Then there are the sociopaths..I’m fascinated by sociopaths… I met one. Not fun. )

    But what about the rest of us “normal folks”? I find it interesting that many pop psychology books are written about “toxic” people- and how to “deal with” “those people”. SHAME on “those people” and the pain they cause others. How many people would actually admit to being an “emotional vampire” or toxic? Almost none. It just doesn’t add up.

    It makes sense to me that everyone is toxic to a degree, or has been or will be at some point in their life. These books do bother me in that they seem to perpetuate the myth that it is always about “the other guy” and never ourselves. (Of course, perpetual self-blame can be a problem as well- but that’s another topic altogether)

    The latest Psychology Today issue is a good example: “Difficult People: How to Handle Whiners, Manipulators, Bullies, and more.

    You had mentioned that Breivik was heavily defended. Do you think that this current trend of objectifying the “other” (all those darned difficult people!!) instead of taking a closer look at our own inner worlds… (What? Me, a Bully???) is contributing to the milder versions of the pathology we share with him?

    Then again, you may have already addressed this in your last reply about empathy.

    Thanks, Jules. And yes I do think objectifying others prevents us from taking a closer look at ourselves. It’s so easy to project the unwanted aspects of ourselves into those others, then erect a wall against it. I’m nothing like that.

    I agree with what you say, Joseph.

    “I don’t know what severe punishment would accomplish, other than to satisfy society’s longing for revenge. It won’t change him, nor will any kind of therapy or treatment. He’s just too damaged. He needs to be put in a secure place where he can never again hurt anyone”

    After all, Breivik doesn’t think he has done anything wrong at all. Quite the contrary. That is how severe NPDs think, if think is the right word. It is always going to be someone else’s fault, and definitely not theirs. Those unfortunate people on that island were at fault, to blame, but not him.

    Just to say about teenagers in passing. They get a bad press sometimes! But we can’t lump them all togther either. Narcissism is a transient state in adolescence, or so I believe. Physical and mental development is moving apace at breakneck speed, and there certainly is a degree of selfishness at that age. I know many teenagers who are fun to talk to, who are engaged in sports, who even have part-time jobs for their pocket money, and who are definitely not dead in the head.
    Of course, as always, good enoug parenting helps….

    Hermes

    I think, Jules, that those books and articles are written about toxicity as an ingrained, ongoing and pervasive pattern. Where the toxicity IS the person. In other words they are like that ALL the time. And since they are not going to admit it, and probably can’t, because it has become their personality (disorder), then all everyone else can do is steer clear of them.
    There is a difference between that kind of permanent toxicity and the occasional toxicity of which we are all capable. We all can, and do, whine SOMETIMES, we can all be difficult at times, and short-tempered and less than kindly. We would be inhuman otherwise. The difference is that we know when we are being like that, one that occasion, or on occasion. And hopefully our friends or those nearest to us will smartly tell us to stop acting the ass. Try telling a toxic individual to stop acting the ass and, well, you might get a Breivik reaction.

    I agree with you Jules that punishment is just a form of revenge, and of absolutely no use in the case of a Breivik.

    Best regards,
    Hermes

    I’m sad to see you describing Breivik as a ‘loner’, as though that were part of his
    problem. Was he not living with his mother as he planned the atrocities? Many of us who are introverts prefer to live a full and satisfying life outside of the mad social whirl, and unthinking people may label us ‘loners’ as a result. Breivik was sick and rejected society because it didn’t come up to his twisted ideals. I’d like t0 suggest http://www.thoughtful-self-improvement.com/percentage-of-introverts.html and http://www.annelirufus.com/partyofone/ for some background and the names of some celebrated ‘loners’.

    I like your posts. I like your philosophy. Most people blog and write stuff like this only to sell their own products. You seem very personal and very wise at the same time.

    Just one question: The fact that you write so much about yourself and your own issues, cannot this interfere with the therapy since the client knows so much about you? I mean aren’t you supposed to be somewhat anonymous in order for the client’s feeling to be the center of attention.

    Again. Very insightful post.

    In theory, the analyst is supposed to be a “blank screen,” of course, but I’ve found that it doesn’t really matter what clients know about you. If they need to see you in a particular way in order to communicate or work something through, they’ll do so regardless of the “facts”.

    I was fascinated to see the sequence on narcissistic personality disorder as I have been the victim of someone who may well have this disorder. Can you give me details of someone in the UK who is an expert able to diagnose this condition.

    Many thanks

    John Hall

    John, I don’t know of anyone who could do that for you but I have several UK professionals who regularly visit the site and maybe one of them will be able to give you a name. Anyone?

    After hearing that Breivik was sentenced today to 21 years in a jail that looks more comfortable than some youth hostels I stayed in, my first emotions was rage. Then I thought: Norwegians have not let Breivik change their society and their juridical culture. For a narcissist like him, seeing that his actions didn’t change anything and that he’s being treated like any other criminal may be the worst punishment.

    Interesting point of view. In any event, it does speak to the quality of Norwegian culture that they continued to behave in a civilized fashion, without betraying their own values out of revenge. I think you’re probably right, that this will torture Breivik during his incarceration.

    My initial reaction to the Breivik killings was anger, but in the aftermath and throughout parts of his trial I actually started feeling sorry for him, and a bizarre sense of respect. His mental attributes are admirable even if his views are undeniably narrow-minded and widely discredited in the norms of modern society. Clearly an eerie self-absorbed man with such radical views must be branded insane. However, hearing his defense, I believe he is highly intelligent. Obviously the media and prosecution bring up mental health and slap the insanity label on anybody who commits such a heinous crime.

    I agree with what you say about “shame” but I still believe his mental strength is scary. The commitment and sacrifice he made to a cause he believes in (however morally different it is to norms of society) is only rivaled by a few in history. Can you imagine a person of such dedication using themselves for good, rather than for evil? (Although we know in his mind, he believes he was using it for good). His face might end up on t-shirts like Che Guevara and when he gets out of prison, perhaps Breivik will follow the path of rehabilitated ex-terrorists such as Nelson Mandela. Perhaps he will end up a Prime Minister or a Nobel Prize winner. He wouldn’t be the first man to have used violence on his path to becoming a rejuvenated figure. He has a lot of time on his hands after all.

    I’d be deeply surprised if your scenario unfolds as you describe it. His world views are too defensive, too mired in psychological pathology for him to put his admittedly great intelligence to a more constructive use.

    Although it’s highly implausible, I don’t believe it’s impossible. Personally, it’s more of a hope that someone can be revived and rejuvenated in modern society. There needs to be more Anders Breivik’s in the world, for a more constructive use.

    Hi Joseph,

    Great article – couldn’t agree more with the shame aspect of Breivik’s psyche. My own view is that shame and low self esteem particularly for men, foster a sense of powerlessness and lack of control. This makes them feel unsafe (security is what we all crave for consciously or not) and the violence is a way of gaining power and therefore security. Very sad that events like these happen.

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